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Wednesday, February 18, 2015

February 18 Meme: Happy birthday, Mark!

Today is my delightful nephew Mark's birthday. It's also the birthdays of quite a few impressive folk. Here are a few, starting with the subject of today's Google Doodle -

1745-1827 Alessandro Volta, after whom the volt is named. He invented the battery and was one of a bunch of scientists interested in what electricity could do. His rival, Luigi Galvani, was the one whose experiments gave a teenage girl called Mary Shelley the idea for her most famous novel, Frankenstein. But she would have heard of Volta. 


1859-1916 Sholom Aleichem, famous Jewish writer. His short stories were funny and sad and brilliant. When he visited the US, he met Mark Twain, who said, "I wanted to meet you, because I'm told that I am the American Sholom Aleichem." If you don't know anything else about Sholom Aleichem, you will certainly have heard of the musical based on some of his stories, Fiddler On The Roof. Oh, and he had a granddaughter, Bel Kaufman, who wrote the classic Up The Down Staircase, a novel set in a working-class school, about a young English teacher's first year in her new profession. Writing talent seems to have run in the family - her Mum was also a writer. 

1883 - 1957 Nikos Kazantzakis, author of Zorba The Greek and, among other things, Christ Recrucified. That one, I've read. It's set in a small Greek village during the Turkish occupation. The villagers are about to stage a Passion Play and the actors start to play out their roles. I read this one when I was in my teens and I'm afraid I figured that out soon enough, but it was a very good novel anyway. 

1936 - Jean M Auel, author of the Earth's Children series, starting with Clan Of The Cave Bear. I've read the first two in the series and enjoyed both, though I admit that I lost interest only a few chapters into the third book.  But if you are interested in life in Neanderthal times as it just might have been, I do recommend Clan Of The Cave Bear. I rather liked her idea that the Neanderthal brain might have been like a computer - it stores race memory, so people know how to do things their ancestors did, whereas the modern humans can't do that, so they have to be able to invent. Is it right? I don't know, but it worked for that book. 

1931 - 2007 Johnny Hart, cartoonist, Wizard of Id. I loved that strip! 

There are other writers, but these are the ones I've read. All with February 18 birthdays!

Published on February 18

1678: The Pilgrim's Progress by John Bunyan. I haven't read it, but there there are references to it in Little Women, in which the girls have copies of it and each goes through her own Pilgrim's Progress experience. 

1885The Adventures Of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain. A true classic! I may read from it next Banned Books Week. 

Happy birthday, Mark and anyone else with a birthday today! 

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